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Common chronic diseases and cancers in Dubai and the UAE

SARS-CoV-2 has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind since the start of the pandemic. Regardless of where you live, you’ve probably started to think about your health more than ever before. While the COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a cause for concern, there are other health issues we should also be focusing on.

Claiming three times as many lives annually as COVID-19, diabetes is considered a silent pandemic. It is also one of the most prevalent chronic illnesses in Dubai and the UAE. Learn more about the country’s common chronic diseases and cancers in this Pacific Prime Dubai article.

What are the most common chronic diseases and cancers in the UAE?

Are you living with a chronic medical condition? If not, someone you know and care about likely is. As the leading cause of death and disability globally, non-communicable or chronic diseases contribute to 7 of the top 10 causes of death. Consequently, it is vital that you know how chronic conditions can potentially threaten your health. The following chronic diseases are the most common in the UAE.

1. Cancer

Every year, roughly 4,500 new cancer cases are reported in the UAE. In 2014, cancer was the third leading cause of death in Abu Dhabi among nationals and expats alike, accounting for 16% of total deaths. The prevalence of cancers in the UAE is largely blamed on inadequate healthcare and unhealthy lifestyle.

The most common cancer amongst men in the UAE is lung cancer, which is primarily caused by smoking. The Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) states that 71% of lung cancer deaths in the emirate are a result of tobacco products. Along with lung cancers, other cancers commonly seen in men in the UAE include:

  • Liver cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer

In UAE women, the most common cancers include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Ovarian cancer

When it comes to cancer, prevention is key. Regular cancer screenings can help detect this life-threatening condition at an early stage. Certain cancers, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer are curable if they are detected early enough and treated in time.

2. Diabetes

Diabetes affects one in five people in the UAE, making it three times more deadly than COVID-19. Diabetics also account for at least 40% of reported COVID-19 deaths. On a global scale, one person dies of diabetes every eight seconds.

An estimated 422 million people around the world are living with the chronic disease, and the number is predicted to reach 629 million by 2045. Similarly, 2.2 million people are expected to have diabetes in the UAE by 2040. Considered a regional affliction, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar are all featured in the top 20 countries with diabetes globally.

Diabetes affects around 19% of the UAE population. According to the Dubai Health Authority, the UAE currently ranks 10th internationally for diabetes prevalence. With that said, Type 2 diabetes affects most adults with diabetes and is considered preventable in almost half of all cases. An estimated 10% of those with the disease have Type 1 diabetes.

Early diagnosis is possible through blood sugar testing. Costing between DH 65 and DH 105, purchasing a glucometer is a relatively inexpensive way to check for diabetes. Diabetes treatment involves physical activity and a healthy diet, as well as smoking cessation and reducing blood glucose levels.

3. Genetic disorders

With over 400 genetic disorders in the UAE, the country’s health sector is focused on reducing the prevalence of these disorders by increasing awareness about prevention methods and early detection. The Ministry of Health Statistics reports that genetic disorders are the fourth highest cause of death in the country. Out of 193 countries, the UAE ranks sixth for birth defects, which are largely due to genetic issues.

The most common genetic disorders in the UAE are blood disorders such as:

  • Anemia
  • Sickle cell
  • Thalassemia 
  • Haemophilia
  • Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD)

At least 8.5% of the country’s population carries the thalassemia gene. These numbers contribute to the government’s mandatory premarital screening, which has helped reduce the number of new cases since its implementation. While generic screening of thalassemia costs DH 120, the cost of treatment is DH 35,000 each year. Likewise, a three-month folic acid course that costs around DH 30 can help prevent the risk of neural tube defects while neural tube defect treatments cost DH 730,000.

As with the other chronic diseases previously mentioned, prevention and early detection of genetic disorders are crucial.

How to prevent and detect chronic diseases

Many chronic conditions are caused by risk behaviors, which means healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your chances of getting a chronic disease. Plus, changes such as quitting smoking, eating healthy, and getting regular exercise will improve your overall quality of life. To prevent chronic diseases or detect them early on, it’s imperative to visit your doctor for preventative services on a regular basis. In fact, getting recommended screenings is one of the most fundamental things you can do for your health.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Dubai
​​Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical workday, she writes and edits articles, guides, and anything else word-related. She loves creating content that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

In her free time, she’s likely to be writing poetry and prose, geeking out on her latest interests, reading, or practicing yoga.
Jantra